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Three key hours to watch in the US midterm elections

Field, a 1 year old English Setter, waits as his owner votes at P.S. 20 during the midterm election in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly - RC1623188500
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
All you can do is wait.
  • Aisha Hassan
By Aisha Hassan


Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

An estimated 40 million people voted early in the US midterm elections, and millions more lined up all over the country today (Nov. 6) in the rain and in spite of broken machines to exercise their democratic right—the results of which will be determined tonight.

The first polls will start closing at 6pm US Eastern Time, and the last will close about seven hours later in Alaska. As voting ends in each state, it means that the fate of many key races will have been decided. While some key districts might be called before the day is over, it’s difficult to ascertain when all results will be in. This is also in light of the high volume of absentee ballots and high voter turnout, as well as states like California, which are notoriously slow at counting votes. The New York Times cautions that even with early trends, “do not expect an answer on which party has won the House until after 11pm ET.”

With seats for 435 House representatives, 35 senators, 36 governors, and hundreds of local politicians at stake, there’s a lot to keep up with. Quartz has previously put together a guide on how to track the most important races and issues in the midterms. It’s sure to be a long and eventful night, and there will be many turning points throughout. (For instance, if Democrat Amy McGrath wins against GOP Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th District—polls close at 6pm—it’s a strong early sign for Democrats.)

These are the three key hours, however, by which some of the most hotly contested races will be decided, even though results will filter in later. (A full list of what time every state closes its polls can be found here.)

7pm to 8pm ET

Florida: Andrew Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis

If Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum wins against Ron DeSantis, he could become Florida’s first Democratic governor in 20 years and its first-ever black governor.

Virginia: Jennifer Wexton vs. Barbara Comstock

House Democrats could pick up seats in Virginia—for instance, Republican Barbara Comstock is facing stiff competition from Democrat Jennifer Wexton. The New York Times writes: “With a focus on the FifthSeventh and 10th Congressional Districts in Virginia, Democrats are hoping the state will launch them into a dream scenario, where the control of the House is virtually settled before 8 p.m. Eastern.” 

Ohio: Richard Cordray vs. Mike DeWine

The gubernatorial race in Ohio is between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, who are fighting for the governor’s position 2016. There is no incumbent: GOP presidential candidate John Kasich had to leave the role due to term limits. According to FiveThirtyEight, Cordray has a 55% shot of taking that governorship for the Democrats, who haven’t held it since 2011.

West Virginia: Joe Manchin vs. Patrick Morrisey

This state voted for president Donald Trump in 2016 by 42 percentage points, but Democrat Joe Manchin is currently leading state attorney general Patrick Morrisey in public polling, the Wall Street Journal notes. (Manchin was the lone Senate Democrat to support Brett Kavanaugh.)

8pm to 9pm ET

Texas: Beto O’Rourke vs. Ted Cruz

If Democrat Beto O’Rourke can beat Republican Ted Cruz for the Senate seat, it will be a big political upset in a deeply red state. (O’Rourke’s campaign is also one of the most expensive.)

Tennessee: Phil Bredesen vs. Marsha Blackburn

Republican Bob Corker is retiring, leaving an open Senate seat in the state. The New York Times notes that this seat is critical to Democrats “if they have any hope of gaining ground in the chamber.” Democrat and former governor Phil Bredesen was endorsed by singer Taylor Swift, and Republican Marsha Blackburn was endorsed by Trump.

9pm to 10pm ET

Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema vs. Martha McSally

Republican Senator Jeff Flake is retiring from his seat, leaving it open for Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally to fight over. FiveThirtyEight predicts Sinema has a three in five chance of winning.

Minnesota: Four key races

“Four races in Minnesota are a bellwether for control of the House. Both parties agree that if Democrats win in three of these four districts, it would be a bad sign for the GOP elsewhere in the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports. These races are: Democrat Dan Feehan against Republican Jim Hagedorn, Democrat Angie Craig against Republican Jason Lewis, Democrat Dean Phillips against Republican Erik Paulsen, and Democrat Joe Radinovich against Republican Pete Stauber.

FiveThirtyEight’s comprehensive hour-by-hour guide, up until 1am ET, can be found here.

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Georgia results did not start coming in between 7-8pm ET.

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